We’ve seen quite a few service industry-focused films take center stage in the past couple of years. From cruise staff in Triangle of Sadness to the exclusive fine dining experience in The Menu, tackling the socio-economic disparities between the wealthy and the poor has never felt more relevant. Now we see a rags-to-riches type of tale exploring these same disparities with an emphasis on ambition. What makes you hungry and how far will you go to sate that hunger?
Written by and produced Kongdej Jaturanrasamee and directed by Sitisiri Mongkolsiri, Hunger follows young noodle shop chef Aoy (Chutimon Chuengcharoensukyingsoon) and her journey navigating the complicated intricacies of the fine dining world. As the eldest child of the family, she’s resigned herself to inheriting her father’s noodle shop. Her life changes when Tone (Gunn Svasti Na Ayudhya), a young chef working under the renowned Chef Paul (Nopachai Chaiyanam), scouts her for an exclusive tryout at the kitchen.
Although she passes the tryout, it doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing. Covered in burns, sweat, and tears, Aoy earnestly works her way up. In the process, she witnesses the cruel realities of the kitchen, confronts ethical dilemmas, and slowly loses bits and pieces of herself in pursuit of being seen as special. By the film’s end, both the audience and Aoy will ask themselves an important question – what is it that we truly hunger for in the end?
Hunger takes its time unveiling its story. Close-up shots of food preparation are done in a beautiful and intimate fashion. Whether it’s the act of slicing meat or splashing red sauce with a spoon to emulate blood spatter, the cinematography pulls you into the seductive allure of the culinary world. It makes it all the easier to imagine how Aoy must have seen the world from the outside in. There is a charge and magic on the surface. But what it takes to craft these dishes is violent and tiring.
These close-up shots also create an intimacy between us and the characters onscreen. Every nuance in the actors’ performances is captured. Chuengcharoensukyingsoon handles Aoy’s emotional journey with a honesty that feels rare. She is the everyman bringing us along on the journey with her and, the more she learns under Chef Paul’s tutelage, the more our eyes open. Love, loss, loneliness – these are all things that are at stake in pursuit of filling that void that beckons to us all at one more or another.
Chaiyanam’s Chef Paul is harder to read and with good reason. He is the untouchable. The elite. Or so it seems. The more Aoy interacts with Chef Paul, the more we start to see what drives him. It is here that we see what kind of man exists beneath that hardened shell.
The thing about Aoy, Chef Paul, and even Tone is that, even if you extract these characters and put them in a different field, we all know these people. We know people with these drives, wants, and desires. Take away the dressing and we see reflections of people from our own lives. In this, Jaturanrasamee, Mongkolsiri, and the cast truly did an outstanding job here. Everyone feels lived in, but also relatable.
Its pace is set at a simmer, with the heat building steadily over the course of its two-hour and ten-minute runtime. While some might be turned off by the lagging nature of the film, the pace is worth it in this slow burn. Remember that some of the best dishes take their time to cook.
There’s a chance that Hunger might get missed in the Netflix lineup, but I highly recommend this film. Visually, it is stunning. It’s how you would hope a film focusing on food would look, and how the process of food prep could be captured at all times. Director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri and writer/producer Kongdej Jaturanrasamee have crafted an apt culinary thriller bolstered by the performances of the talented cast. Just hunker down with some popcorn to satisfy the food cravings that will erupt during your viewing, and prepare for the visual feast.
Hunger is now streaming on Netflix.
There’s a chance that Hunger might get missed in the Netflix lineup, but I highly recommend this film. Visually, it is stunning. Director Sitisiri Mongkolsiri and writer/producer Kongdej Jaturanrasamee have crafted an apt culinary thriller bolstered by the performances of the talented cast. Just hunker down with some popcorn to satisfy the food cravings that will erupt during your viewing, and prepare for the visual feast.
Sarah is a writer and editor for BWT. When she’s not busy writing about KDramas, she’s working as the EIC over at horror entertainment site, Nightmarish Conjurings, where she has yet to hug the ghoulies that haunt our waking nightmares. She’s also a Rotten Tomatoes Certified critic and a published author of both fiction and non-fiction.